It was perhaps the most memorable utterance of former President George H.W. Bush's early days, so when he broke his “Read my lips: No new taxes” pledge in 1990, the public never again viewed his policy promises the same way.
A prominent Republican pollster who was working at the Republican National Committee then said the broken pledge contributed significantly to Bush's 1992 loss to Bill Clinton. Now President Obama is facing his own rhetorical crisis over the false Obamacare sales pitch, "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
David Winston told Secrets that the broken promise "undercuts the president's argument on everything now.” It's not that the public won't trust Obama or believe his sincerity, said Winston, but there will forever be “something in the back of their minds” that the president won't be able to deliver.
“It's a real problem,” said Winston, explaining that Obama already suffers from poor approval ratings and is viewed unfavorably by the public.
But it’s a huge opening for the GOP. “This is a big moment,” he said. “We’re in a position where people are open to listening to us.”
He and others are advising the GOP to focus on job creation and the economy, which polls put far ahead of Obamacare on their list of concerns. Just as in 2010, when Republicans swept Rep. Nancy Pelosi out of the Speaker's chair, it's pocketbook issues driving the electorate.
House Speaker John Boehner seems to agree, making jobs of the election's top issues, followed by Obama's signature issue, the Affordable Care Act.Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.